Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Toledo Walleye

If there’s two things in life that I live for it’s Star Wars and ice hockey. Which means that when you bring those two things together, it becomes the “Reese’s Cup” of AWESOME!  And that is exactly what happened when Great Lakes Base and Ohio Garrison returned for “Star Wars Night” with the Toledo Walleye.

After the overwhelming success of last year’s Star Wars promotion, you would think this year has to be BIGGER then the year before – but if there’s anything I learned growing up playing hockey it’s that not every goal is scored on the power play!  We have done several sporting events with this organization, who also own the Toledo Mudhens baseball team (across the street) and one of the things we keep emphasizing to their promotions staff is that our guys work best when we are interacting with the fans.  So that is exactly the mission the Walleye staff gave us!

First off was a pregame character dinner where fans could enjoy some burgers and hot dogs, followed by some special one-on-one time with us.  Many of the kids were dressed up in their favorite Star Wars costumes and each family went around taking pictures with us.  It was fun to get to spend a little extra time with each kid, asking them who their favorite Star Wars character was -- particularly the one kid who pointed to me and said, “You!” (you can bet that kid got a high five for that answer)

Eventually, it was time for the game to start and we setup around the Walleye’s photo booth station.  The photo booth had a “green screen” backdrop (because what is Star Wars without a little green screen effects?) where fans could get their photo taken with any of us and have a special Star Wars background added in.  Each of us took turns in front of the camera, sometime fans would request for a specific character or two. The rest of us took pictures with fans passing by or as they waited in line for the photo booth.

Hockey is a game of speed and trying to troop one goes by even faster!  Plus it was a good night for the home team as the Toledo Walleye defeated the Orlando Solar Bear 4-3, extending their six game winning streak.  I’d like to personally thank the Toledo Walleye staff for not only inviting us… but also for taking care of my parents, who drove up to watch both the game and watch their kids play “Star Wars” -- two things which go great together!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Toledo Children's Hospital

One of the things you will hear many people say about groups like ours is that we get to “play Halloween, all year round.”  While that may be true in some respect, not every kid gets to go out and have fun Trick-Or-Treating with their friends… which made yesterday’s mission extra special when Great Lakes Base and Ohio Garrison were invited back to Promedica Toledo Children’s Hospital, to visit with the kids being treated there.

Hospital visits can be something of a balancing act for groups like ours; there can be a lot of protocol involved that could make C3P0’s circuits fizzle.  Each encounter with a patient is unique and both the hospital staff and Star Wars costumers want to help create as many smiles as possible, while at the same time respecting the patients and their parents needs.  For this visit, we ended up going from room to room visiting with kids individually -- because (thank the Force) the children’s wing of the hospital was fairly inactive this weekend.

In some cases, we were not allowed into the room for medical reason -- so we just stood in the doorway and took turns saying "hello!"  There was one girl in the children's ICU unit, whom I'll never forget because she had the most upbeat attitude.  Other times, both parents and nurses told us that they hadn’t seen their kid as excited as when we dropped in to visit them.  Amazing what holding a Jedi's lightsaber can do to improve a sick child's morale!

And as I explained to the kids, since we Star Wars characters are “kind of new to this planet…” and “didn’t totally understand how this Trick-Or-Treat thing worked?” we showed up came with a bag filled with various Star Wars toys, coloring books and games for them to pick something out. (Did I get that backwards?)  In fact, one kid was so excited to receive a gift from us that he rushed over to his Halloween bucket, pulled out some of his candy and put it into our bag as a gift for us… good trade!

Trooping at a hospital can be a balancing act, but they are also one of the most rewarding types of events costume groups get to do!  My first “official” event with Rebel Legion was at a local hospital visit and I’d like to see us do more of them with various local children’s hospitals.  

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Trick or Treat Trail

by: flutefreak03

Great Lakes Base and Great Lakes Garrison participated in the Clawson Youth Assistance “Trick or Treat Trail” event in Clawson Michigan. Our NCS passed out candy while two Storm Troopers, a Jedi, Mara Jade, Rebel Pilot and Lando Calrissian stood along the path to greet and take pictures with the kids.  The Stormtroopers were popular characters until it got dark, when the lightsabers could show up better… then Mara Jade and the Jedi were the “cool kids!” Whether you are a fan of the light side or dark side of the Force, both kids and adults were pleased to see us at the event.

The line of kids trick or treating looked like it would never end and we (surprisingly) did not run out of candy.  We encountered many Elsas and Annas from “Frozen” along with several Ninja Turtles.  Overall, this troop was a lot of fun and the looks on the kids faces made it worth it.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Boo at the Zoo Strikes Back!

Last week, I promised to report on anything NEW over at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo during our second weekend of “Boo at the Zoo” with Great Lakes Base, Ohio Garrison and Rancor Clan.  Looking back, I may have taken that oath a bit literally.

How about we start with what stayed the same?  “Boo at the Zoo” is the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo’s is a neighborhood of safe Halloween entertainment for kids, featuring lights, games and other fun activities as families tour the many animal exhibits during the evening hours.  This was the final weekend of “Boo at the Zoo” for 2014 and (just like last week) Saturday night was SOLD OUT!

One thing that was different was the weather -- which was BEAUTIFUL, unlike last weekend.  This meant that more people were coming dressed in their favorite Halloween costumes, minus the winter coats; a tradition for anyone who grew up in NE Ohio. 

Another thing different was that with the exception of Snips and myself, we had an entirely different crew from last weekend; all of them “Boo at the Zoo” rookies.  We started off in our usual spot by the main entrance and people would ask if they could get pictures with us -- as we at GLB like to say, “it’s what we do!”  However, once the zoo was opened up to the public to explore Snips had the idea of mixing things up a bit from our standard routine.  Traditionally, we wait for the crowds to disperse before we go exploring the zoo for ourselves. However, since the weather was so nice and sunset wasn’t for another hour or so, we decided to start our patrol of the zoo while it was still daylight.  In fact, we got all the way up the hill by the Wolf Lodge, tigers and bears (oh my!) exhibits before it got really dark and more people stopped us for photos along the way then we typically get waiting by the main entrance.

After meeting up with a pair of late arrivals from Rancor Clan, our group made it’s way towards the opposite end of the zoo.  We stopped for a while at the newly restored
Circle of Wildlife Carousel” -- featuring sixty-four, individually carved animal figures, all hand created by an Ohio-based company.  This thing is BEAUTIFUL to look at and was originally part of the old Euclid Beach Park from 1910-1969.  Restoring this carousel has been a labor of love for the Cleveland Metroparks and now a new generation of kids will get to build a lifetime of memories riding this famed attraction.

From there our group took a “walkabout” through the Australian-themed exhibit and Reinberger Homestead, past the “Elephant Crossing” (who smell a lot like Banthas) until we were back at the main entrance and most of our guys were ready to gear down for the evening.

GLB "Mission Photos" -- Cleveland Metroparks "Boo at the Zoo"

It had been a different type of evening for us at “Boo at the Zoo” – but as always, it also was a lot of fun!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Boo at the Zoo

Having been around the galaxy as much as I have, you tend to look for things that stand the test of time.  There is a rich history of trooping at Cleveland Metroparks “Boo at the Zoo” since long before Great Lakes Base even existed.  While some would argue that makes this particular event boring, it doesn’t as Great Lakes Base, Ohio Garrison and Rancor Clan return for another FUN tour at this Cleveland area tradition.

“Boo at the Zoo” is a family friendly event, hosted by the Cleveland Metropark Zoo, where they decorate the zoo in lights and other non-scary Halloween entertainment as families get to visit many of the animals and exhibits.  “Boo at the Zoo” features: animal shows, a Not-So Haunted Greenhouse, train rides, a hay maze, along with dozens of stilt walker and other entertainers.  And despite your typical NE Ohio late-October weather (cold and rainy) this event was once again SOLD OUT!

One of the things I like most about trooping “Boo at the Zoo” is that it’s a reminder about what trooping should be all about.  Over the years, I’ve developed friendships with many of the other costumed performers who work EVERY night of the event.  For example, there’s this man who plays a stilt-walking clown called “Pee-Chee” that has been part of this event for as long as I can remember.  As it turned out, he had recently gone through major heart surgery – and yet he’s back out there making kids smile (a little shorter then I remember him) which means he’s got more “heart” then a lot of people.

The other thing I love about trooping during “Boo at the Zoo” is to watch the people coming in get dressed up for Halloween; even when you have to find a costume that goes with your winter coat over it.  As you can imagine, there were A LOT of Elsa and Anna from Disney’s “Frozen”, Superheroes and all the usual favorites.  As an avid Star Wars fan, I was pleased to see many kids dressed up as Star Wars characters: Darth Vaders of all sizes, a few Jedi younglings, Captain Rex and the clones are still popular and even Ezra from the NEW “Star Wars Rebels.”

GLB "Mission Photos" -- Cleveland Metroparks "Boo at the Zoo"

This year, we took a more “fly casual” approach to trooping this event.  While we still joined Pee-Chee and the other costume performers at the main entrance to welcome guests and pose for pictures, because we had so many of our own group bring their kids to enjoy this event.  Once our group was free to wander the zoo, we made our way up the hill to the Wolf Lodge; where our favorite pair of costumed Cellists who will play a selection of Star Wars music whenever we spot us walk in!   

Later, we got to meet Chad Schofield from the Cleveland Gladiators arena football team.  This is another reason why I love coming back for this event: our guys do a little work… then get to have fun!

We have one more weekend at “Boo at the Zoo” this weekend, so I’ll try reporting on some of the new additions to Cleveland Metroparks in my next report; after I enjoy some funnel cake!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Jension High School

by: oldbenkenobi

Last weekend, Great Lakes Base and Great Lakes Garrison took part in Jenison High School (west Michigan) homecoming pregame fundraiser for “Make-A-Wish."  The fundraiser featured carnival type games and a bounce house for kids to play inside.  We helped out by having troopers and myself available to have picture taken with fans; including my new friend you see in this picture.  Overall, the night was a big success!  

The true star of the night was a little boy who had already had his “wish” granted.  He had his “Jedi training” at Disney World and wouldn't you know it --  a Jedi was there that night to give the young man more training! 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cincinnati Comic Expo

It was a busy weekend in downtown Cincinnati, between “Octoberfest”, homecoming weekend for University of Cincinnati, the Bengals were at home vs. the Titans on Sunday, as well as Cincinnati Comic Expo.  Members from Great Lakes Base, Ohio Garrison and Rancor Clan were all in attendance – along with friends from nearby Kentucky – for Ohio’s largest comic book convention.

Because of changes to Episode VII filming schedule, Peter Mayhew was forced to cancel his appearance.  David Prowse also had to cancel, due to knee surgery.  Yet shortly after that news, it was announced a trio of Boba Fetts: Daniel Logan, Dickey Beers (stunts) and John Morton -- also known for “Dak” from Empire Strikes Back -- would replace Mayhew and Prowse on the Cincy Expo guest list.  This was the first time John Morton has appeared at a convention in Great Lakes Base, so the boys from Shadow Squadron made sure to offer him a proper welcome. (more on that in upcoming posts)

photo courtesy Kristie Johnson
Another big debut this weekend was for the Ohio Garrison “Detention Block” display booth.  Joining last year’s Speeder Bike and full-sized Dewback -- provided by Midsouth Garrison -- was a full-sized Death Star detention block, complete with two working “cells” where people could be held prisoner as part of the “Bounty Hunt” charity fundraiser.  For a small donation, folks were given lanyards to walk around the convention floor – where troopers from Ohio Garrison and bounty hunters from Rancor Clan would “arrest” them, and place them inside the detention block for about 5 minutes; or until someone paid to “bail” them out first.  The proceeds from this weekend’s went to Families with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) -- a local autism support group. 

While we here at Great Lakes Base typically do our best to foil the Empire’s efforts, we did manage to help sign up several people for the charity fundraiser – I even helped a few evade capture from Troopers and Mercs for a little while longer!  Together, we helped raise just over $600 for the organization.  To learn more visit: http://www.familieswithasd.org

Along with the Star Wars actor guests on the lineup, Cincinnati Comic Expo featured a pair of local artists with ties to Star Wars.  One of the headline artists was longtime friend, Ohio native and Rebel Legion Honorary Member – Joe Corroney.  Also setting up shop along “artist alley” was aspiring artist and actual Great Lakes Base member Travis Perkins; who’s done several projects for us over the years.  If you are a fan of Star Wars artwork, I highly recommend you visit both of their respective tables and pickup something for your wall at home.